Cultural respect: It starts with us all
As Australians, we each have a role to play in advancing reconciliation, supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination, and working with First Nations communities to embed cultural safety, respect and equity in all areas of our society.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled some suggested actions that individuals and organisations can take throughout the year. We know that we’re not the experts in this, so we’re also providing links below to valuable resources and knowledge shared by the First Nations peoples who are.
We acknowledge and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – past, present and future – as the experts and knowledge keepers of the world’s oldest living culture and the Traditional Custodians of the land and water on which we all live and rely.
Actions for individuals
The task of educating others about history, culture, respect and equity often falls upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander shoulders. One way that you can show respect is by doing your own research into the wealth of information that First Nations peoples have generously shared, and then encouraging those around you to do the same. You can get started with the links below.
- ‘Learn how to be a good ally’ – Read these 7 tips from Summer May Finlay, Yorta Yorta woman, academic, writer and public health consultant.
- Invest the time to learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and languages. Access First Nations-led websites like Deadly Story and Common Ground, and visit cultural centres such as Koorie Heritage Trust.
- Understand that Australia’s colonial history, Stolen Generations policies and practices, and other experiences of intergenerational trauma continue to impact and harm Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today.
- Learn about unconscious bias and privilege, then reflect on and challenge your own internalised assumptions and behaviours.
- Support and engage with First Nations media and arts and community-owned businesses.
Actions for organisations
If you’re a leader in your organisation, start the conversation about how your workplace can improve its cultural competency and safety. This could include the following.
- Ask yourself: ‘Who is in the room when we’re making decisions?’ Make sure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are involved in all stages of the process and compensated for their time and contributions.
- Engage and appropriately remunerate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to consult and guide you in developing an engagement plan/strategy, such as a Reconciliation Action Plan.
- Review your processes, language, and the training you provide to staff. Look at how your workplace can champion anti-racism.
- Invest in cultural competency and safety training (see 'Continue your learning' below) by hiring facilitators and guest speakers from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to deliver training to your staff.
- Educate staff about the meaning and value of knowing whose lands they’re on and appropriately performing Acknowledgements of Country, publicly supporting Aboriginal self-determination, participating in or hosting reconciliation events and supporting annual days and events of significance and celebrations such as National NAIDOC Week.
Cultural safety at Relationships Australia Victoria
Here at Relationships Australia Victoria, we recognise that we still have a way to go in embedding cultural competency and safety across our organisation, but we are committed to this crucial process.
Some of the steps we’ve taken so far are:
- Employing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Specialist. Since 2010, this position has provided internal consultancy for our organisation, advised on the provision of culturally-appropriate services and engaged with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members.
- Committing to building and supporting an inclusive and diverse workforce and encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, LGBTIQA+ people and people with disability to apply for all our available roles.
- Adopting a Statement of Commitment in 2016 which aims to promote cultural awareness and respect and strengthen our provision of services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities in Victoria.
- Providing compulsory, online Core Inclusion Training for all staff, including an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander course which was developed by Wayne Denning, a proud Birri Gubba man and founder of Carbon Creative, and which features artwork by Elizabeth Close, a Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara woman from the APY lands in Central Australia.
- Sourcing Cultural Awareness Training for our staff from several providers in Victoria including the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA), the Avaivilla Group (formerly SALT consultancy studios) and local Elders.
- Supporting staff to develop their ongoing personal understanding of First Nations cultures and experiences by attending relevant community events, conferences and professional development training.
- Sharing educational resources and promoting significant dates through our staff intranet, and on our website and social media platforms.
- Supporting Aboriginal community-led programs and initiatives such as Brutha’s Day Out, which is coordinated by Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place.
- Introducing monthly, voluntary yarning circles in 2021 as an invitation to our staff to explore and understand the cultural practices of First Nations people.
If you have feedback on how we can continue to improve our workplace and services to be more culturally safe, we invite you to contact us via our online feedback form.
Continue your learning
- Reconciliation Victoria: Information on reconciliation, Treaty Toolkits and more resources to get informed and take action.
- Deadly Questions: Learn from Aboriginal Victorians about the oldest continuous cultures on earth. Here you can explore Aboriginal cultures, histories, ideas, opinions and Treaty in Victoria.
- AIATSIS: View a map of Indigenous Australia, find out whose Country you’re on, and learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
- Culture Victoria: Discover Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories spanning from traditional to contemporary life, of land and spirit, art and artefacts.
- Australian Human Rights Commission: Information on social justice issues impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- Introduction to Aboriginal Cultural Safety Training: Victorian Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO)
- Cultural Awareness Training: Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA)
- Cultural Awareness Training: Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association Ltd (VACSAL)
- Building Aboriginal Cultural Safety in the Workplace: Koorie Heritage Trust
- Maggolee: Developed by Reconciliation Victoria to support engagement and partnerships between local government and Aboriginal communities.
- ‘Racism at work: a call to anti-racist action for Australian organisations’ (The Conversation, April 2022): Professor Peter J. Anderson, from the Walpiri and Murinpatha First Nations in the Northern Territory, writes about the Diversity Council of Australia’s ‘Racism at work’ report (March 2022) and a new anti-racism tool for Australian workplaces.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Safety Framework (November 2021): The Victorian Government Department of Health has developed this framework to help mainstream Victorian health, human and community services and the department to create culturally safe environments, services and workplaces.
This post does not constitute professional advice. It is for informational purposes only.